Locating The Thick of It
I was lucky enough to be involved with The Thick of It at the very beginning. When I was asked by Producer Adam Tandy if I'd like to be Production Designer for a new comedy set in the world of politics and spin devised by Armando Iannucci, I knew that this project was going to be a lot of fun.
Location Manager Tom Howard found our first location at the old Guinness brewery in Park Royal, West London. It was a one-stop shop. We were able to use different areas of one building to dress the variety of sets that we required, within our tiny budget - The Department of Social Affairs' entrance foyer, corridors and Hugh Abbot's office, the open plan area and interview rooms, Malcolm Tucker's office and corridors in 10 Downing Street, The Evening Standard's newsroom, and The Times' offices in Wapping were all shot in different parts of the same building. All this was achieved through the careful doubling-up of a lorry load of folders, post-its, pin boards, stationery and Biros in brightly coloured pen holders.
The Guinness Brewery had been used for BBC filming before. It was used in 1968 as the Cybermen's base of operations in Doctor Who!We knew at this time that the brewery was to be demolished, and we would have to find a new location that would service our many requirements. After looking all over London without finding a suitable alternative, Adam suggested we try to find our ministry building closer to home - he thought that maybe we could be accommodated at the newly opened BBC Media Centre.
We took over half a floor and set up our ministry offices there, filming for a week surrounded by BBC people going about their business [including the editor of this blog!], although we did have to leave the filming of the more sweary scenes until the end of the day. The Media Centre provided us with a lot more scale and production value and really helped suggest that our ministry was a tiny cog in a huge political machine.
We filmed two further specials at a building in Harefield, which like the Brewery before, offered us a range of styles and proved perfect for re-creating 10 Downing Street, as well as The Daily Mail, Richmond Terrace and Portcullis House.
(Harefield was also home to The Professionals in the 70s!)When I received the scripts for the new series, we had to start again. In the Loop had recently finished filming and we went back to look at the film's locations, but we opted instead to return to our location from the previous hour-long specials.
However, it became clear that we would not be able to shoot the required number of DoSAC scenes at the Media Centre... so we decided to build our own version. After an extensive search, Tom Howard found an empty office block in a business park near Watford. I designed a set to match the location where we would shoot arrivals and departures scenes in the Media Centre's spectacular atrium, staircase (above) and lift lobby. The match between the location and the set works well, and the join is difficult to spot. I've been told that even the editors didn't spot it until it was pointed out to them.
Can you spot the difference in our Flickr gallery?
Out of The Thick of It
In last Saturday's episode of The Thick of It, we saw another side to Malcolm Tucker in an incredible performance from Peter Calpaldi. But what was it like for the cast who saw it happen before them?
The Thick of It continues tomorrow night at 10.30pm on BBC Two. Read more features and interviews on the Comedy Blog.